Monday, August 15, 2011

Morning Has Broken

This is the last week of Rosmarins Day Camp. I'm pretty sure I discerned a heavy spirit draped around Little Babe as he diligently set off for his Monday morning staff meeting at 8:30...the final one of the season.

It's been an extraordinary summer for the Three Babes. My youngest had his first job -- Junior Counselor for 9-year-old boys. When he wasn't at camp, his time was filled with music and friends, romance and midnight swims, jam sessions, pizza and hamburgers. A week from today, he is scheduled to apply for his Learner's Permit at the Orange County DMV in nearby Goshen so that he can take driving lessons in the relative sanity of Monroe instead of Manhattan's stressful streets. We tease our older kids that their baby brother will be the first of the sibling group with a Driver's License. Big Babe, who favors European cities, has no use for cars and Middle Babe has a GC (Gentleman Caller) with his own wheels. (I know that sounds old-fashioned and sexist so let me add that she also has many female friends with cars. Besides, like Big Babe, she hardly ever finds herself anywhere without a great public transportation system.)

Middle Babe had her first post-college summer, complete with a full-time salaried position and all that goes with it -- lunch breaks, office mates, staff retreats, casual Fridays. I am proud and amazed that she, like her little brother, has a diligent work ethic. She also has a volunteer ethic. This Thursday, she is coordinating a fundraiser for Jewish Heart for Africa at an Upper East Side bar and I have volunteered to come early to help her set up, but mostly, I want to watch my little girl in action. Besides her GC, whom we all love dearly, she has many BFFs. Her summer was a jumble of sleepovers with friends and parties and weddings and weekend excursions.

And then there is my eldest, Big Babe, who turned 27 last week and whom I haven't seen since January. He, too, is thriving -- writing and traveling and doing his signature Borscht Belt comedy, leading tours of Jewish Berlin, working on a novel, hosting Shabbat and holiday meals, enjoying love of his own. Even with him so far away, I feel his presence in the midst of my bungalow summer. He is virtually here through the magic of Skype and our regular phone conversations.

Finally, HOBB and I shared some marital magic in the course of a project we jointly undertook, which provided proof of the very thing we are best at -- creative collaboration. After working feverishly on the manuscript of his forthcoming memoir for months, my husband felt that the project still needed much work and asked me to read/edit it/interact with it. Reticent for just a millisecond (a workaholic/selfish inner voice tried to tell me that my first priority was my own overwhelming writing projects) I delved into the project with tremendous curiosity and just a tad of trepidation tempered with the confidence that I possessed the alchemical ability to sharpen dull insights, shine dusty prose, focus nebulous narrative; in other words, transform his work-in-progress into a modern literary masterpiece.

The opportunity to interact with the first draft of HOBB's efforts proved thrilling. I was greatly honored to be granted access to this work. Completely absorbed, I felt like a seamstress, a plastic surgeon, a construction worker, an executioner. I cheered and berated him, I challenged and needled him, I struck out words that served as dead weight; I wrote in details and passages that seemed glaringly absent. The process took several weeks. It involved close reading, reacting, yelling, guffawing, cursing, congratulating, praising, gnashing my teeth, long walks, hour-long phone conversations, arguments and ultimately breakthroughs. I woke up early and stayed up late. My eyes blurred. I took to wearing the quaint/cool red reading glasses from Ricky's that I had bought on sale for my old age.

Pacing until the newly-edited pages were ready to be pounced on, HOBB was delighted, declaring the work reshaped in important ways, proclaiming that I forced positive change in his writing, pushed him past mediocrity, discovered truths hidden between the lines. We marveled, through the process, that we had discovered a new amity 28 years into our union, one which we had briefly tasted but which had never been so sustained and so strong.

Passion we have always had. My husband and I do not lack for crimson emotions, fur flying, words careening off walls, shouts, hugs, clashes, blood, sweat, tears, ecstasy and hysterical laughter.

But this was something new. This was passion that was focused and wholly positive. It did not exclude impassioned argument -- a hallmark of our relationship -- but the basis of the argument was conceptual...not personal. Nurturing not volatile.

This new form of friendship filled me with warmth and generosity of spirit. We both marveled at the magic that had overtaken us. We felt we were our highest selves, the best form of us ever. Truly BFF.

Now the manuscript has been rewritten and passed onto a posse of new readers including close friends and our own children. Comments are coming back. HOBB is feeling grateful but also overwhelmed, confused, sick of the project or at least the endless work.

At this moment, the role I need to play is clear to me. The selfish/workaholic voice inside me has not totally disappeared but I have a really strong set of lungs and can out-shout anyone, if necessary. The last time I felt so unambiguous about assuming a responsibility on behalf of someone else was when I first became a parent.

This analogy is apt because writing anything of worth is akin to giving birth.

The marital magic we gained during our collaboration still suffuses the summer. The way we fit together as creative collaborators still dazzles us. It is the thing I had foreseen when first we met, nearly 28 years ago. It was the carrot dangled before me, a glimmer of Eden, a wisp of a promise.

It was the promise of such a partnership that I pinned all my youthful dreams on, the hope that I might find in this man a journalistic yang to my literary yin, a stable center to my thirst for adventure. This was the bashert I believed in all along.

Oh, and in case you hadn't figured it out, the video at the top of this post features our pooches, Alfie and Nala. It was filmed in my bungalow bedroom early this the morning and captures their inimitable cuteness and chemistry, proving that bashert is hardly the exclusive domain of humans.

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